Select expatriates must now be living in the British Virgin Islands for more than 20 years to pre-qualify for government’s expat regularisation programme, Premier Andrew Fahie has said.
His remarks follow a series of meetings with residents on the controversial programme.
“Initially, we had envisaged considering people who were here for 15 years or more. But coming from the consultation, and having listened to you, the people, we have lifted that ceiling for consideration to 20 years,” Premier Fahie said during a statement on the Immigration and Labour reform initiative on Sunday, June 2.
The Premier Fahie said this goal post shift will target fewer than 800 persons.
Everyone won’t automatically qualify
In the meantime, Premier Fahie said not all persons who qualify for his government’s programme will be successful.
“Not every person who has been living in the BVI for an extended period of time would be eligible for regularisation of status – whether as a resident or as a Belonger. Only persons who meet the existing criteria and who have been making a contribution back to our society would qualify for consideration,” he said.
He continued: “Qualification for consideration does not equate to immediate regularisation. The existing evaluation processes by the Immigration Department and other government agencies remain in place and will be strictly applied in the evaluation of applicants. The only difference is that the length of processing time is being shortened in this single instance.”
Fahie then made it clear that the initiative is a one-time undertaking to clear the backlog of eligible expats who sought to get regularised in the past.
No flooding of territory
And while addressing statements from locals who have expressed great concern about the initiative, Premier Fahie said the undertaking does not involve regularising or inviting new expats to the territory.
“There will be no flooding of our territory with new entrants. The objective is to mainly address the backlog of applicants that have been pending and to sort through which applications have merit and which do not. With the backlog cleared, there will be no further need for these special provisions,” he said.
Amendments to the Immigration Act
Premier Fahie also said the regularisation amendments tabled for today’s (Monday, June 3) sitting of the House of Assembly does not mean his government will ignore the concerns raised in the recently concluded community meetings between government and residents.
He said those amendments are simply aimed at creating a framework to clear the aforementioned backlog.
He said: “In spite of what has been suggested elsewhere, the proposed amendment does not speak to the comprehensive Immigration and Labour overhaul, which will come down the road after even further consultations. Monday sets the framework for a broader policy to come.”
He continued, “This is also a clear result of the recent consultation process [which] provided a forum for persons to air their concerns and, through which, the government got to understand the fears of residents – both legitimate and otherwise. We were pleased that we also had the opportunity to correct many misunderstandings.”
We will not do what previous gov’t did
Meanwhile, Fahie said his administration is ‘satisfied’ that this fast-track initiative is being done in an ‘open and transparent way, unlike that has happened in the immediate period before’.
“In the last seven years under the previous administration, over 2,000 people were given some kind of status – and that was done quietly and silently, and not in the open, transparent way that your government is undertaking. Might I add, that a few of these people who received status was under 20 years residing in the BVI, and without any records of proper vetting.”
He noted that a “large portion of these approvals came just before the last general elections and were mainly of people who were not part of the backlog”.
“This is the type of behaviour we must bring to an end,” the Premeir said.
Copyright 2020 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.